Few waves have made an impact on almost all activities governing our lives as radically as the social media. A byproduct of the Internet; the social media have sucked millions of us into their fold with a force and on a scale seldom witnessed before. Perhaps not one area of human activity has remained outside the social media.
Healthcare is among those sectors that are the forefront of being impacted by the social media. The social media are increasingly being seen as major sources of patient-centered care. Social media and other related tools such as mobile technologies and apps help patients have greater access to their records.
Given the profound ways in which the social media have come into healthcare; it is but natural that there should be a discussion on a very important aspect of this phenomenon: ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare.
In simple terms, ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare relate to almost every activity of the social media with healthcare.
The use of social media has proliferated in medical care centers, with their being used for a variety of purposes. Web and mobile technologies are the vehicles through which social media platforms exchange data with other sources such as patients, healthcare providers, healthcare settings, patients families, pharmaceutical companies, advertisers, marketers, etc.
This is where the most critical ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare come into question: sharing information across a wide section of users is at the core of social media. The very same social media that enable sharing of information pertaining of one's personal matters such as social occasions, work anniversaries, etc., also does the same with healthcare information.
Here is the rub: when information goes out so freely and without a remote sense of monitoring; what is the fate of this information? This is where ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare come to the fore. Who is there to control these data and ensure their security? This raises the next most important question: if there were to be some kind of strict regulation in these social media, what is the purpose of having them in the first place?
This places regulatory authorities in a real quandary. On the one hand, there is the onslaught of the social media all over cyberspace and into the very heart of our very personal matters. On the other, there is the crying need to make sure that this does not become a tool for sharing the most intimate personal matters such as one's health information.
Breach or compromise of health information, primarily from sources such as the social media, is no small matter, as it can cause mayhem in the industry. It can strike at the very core of the healthcare fraternity, hitting at their integrity, reliability and accountability, and has the potential shake the very edifice of healthcare provider-patient relationship as we understand it.
So, where does that leave ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare? It is where it is: evolving and in the process of being perfected. It is going to be a while before we can have a concrete solution that addresses ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare in at least an acceptable, if not perfect manner.